A divorce filing can come as a shock. It is common for one party to be suddenly served with divorce papers and not be aware that the end of the marriage had been on the horizon for months—even years. However, there are warning signs that one party may be gearing up to end the marriage. Some signs are obvious, while others may be shrouded in subtlety, even mystery. Noticing warning signs is important in salvaging a marriage or ensuring divorce proceedings are as painless as possible.
Even happily married couples can find themselves in financial difficulty. A common warning sign that a marriage may be headed for divorce is continued financial irresponsibility. The overuse of credit cards, unnecessary mortgages on homes and purchases a couple cannot afford can come with unbearably stressful backlash. Living beyond one's means can cause late payments, bankruptcy and resentment—all of which can lead to divorce.
Addiction and Substance Abuse
Addiction to drugs, alcohol and gambling commonly do not begin as full-blown problems. Over time, addiction and substance abuse can cause spouses to lose touch with who they are as individuals and partners. Addiction is often the cause of financial stress. According to social worker Julie Logan, addiction can cause irreparable damage to a marriage.
Untreated Emotional and Psychological Problems
It is common for a spouse to be blindsided by a partner's behavior. A once loving, caring and thoughtful person can turn into a mean, harsh and angry partner once the "honeymoon" period of a marriage is over. This, Julie Logan says, is often the result of emotional and psychological problems that begin in childhood and follow people into their personal adult relationships.
Unmet Needs and Communication Breakdown
Some spouses can become complacent and expect their partners to automatically meet their physical, emotional and psychological needs. However, many married couples fall short in properly asking for their needs to be met. When this occurs, communication breaks down and, Logan says, unbridled resentment can creep into a marriage. This is especially common when one spouse has many of his or her needs met through social situations and recreational activities while the other takes on a caretaker role. After extended periods, caretakers often feel hatred and resentment toward their spouses and feel trapped. Divorce becomes a welcomed way out.
While it is debatable whether cheating in a marriage is rooted in deeper problems, the act of sharing one's body, mind and soul with a person other than a spouse can deliver serious blows to a relationship. Even after months, even years, of counseling, apologies and spiritual redemption, many marriages are often not strong enough to withstand the consequences of infidelity.
Changes in Physical Appearance
In modern society, people are assaulted with advertisements that tell us how young, distinguished, rich and sexy we need to appear. This can often take a toll on a marriage as years go by. Women often gain weight after giving birth and age-induced physical changes can leave thick heads of sexy hair deep in a man's past. It can also cause spouses to be less attracted to one another, especially in the midst of a "stay young and perfect" society, as Logan notes. When one spouse begins losing interest in the other because of physical changes, divorce may be in a couple's not-so-distant future.
Marrying someone of another faith can be risky. Interfaith marriages can lead to complexities some spouses are not willing to tolerate. Rather than adapt to one faith, many couples attempt to convert each other, which, according to Logan, can cause one partner to leave his faith against his or her will.
Lack of Sex and Physical Contact
It is common for the frequency of sexual intercourse to decrease during the course of a marriage. However, some couples, because of schedule conflicts, complacency and other distractions, do not make time for physical intimacy. Over time, a lack of sexual intercourse can also lead to a lack of physical contact such as kissing, hugging and friendly touches, Logan says. It is also common in some marriages for one partner to withhold sex as a form of punishment. Without family therapy, these issues can lead to resentment- and anger-fueled divorce filings.
Lack of Professional Fulfillment
It is common for singles to have dreams involving professional accomplishments. Some people are money-motivated, while others seek emotional and psychological fulfillment by doing a job they feel makes a difference in their community. When these dreams go unfulfilled during a marriage, it is common for spouses to question their self-worth and begin moving away from the union in search of deeper fulfillment. This is common when one spouse, during the course of a marriage, realizes professional dreams and the other does not. Jealousy, resentment and feelings of being trapped, therefore, often prompt divorce.
One of the most common warning signs of divorce therapists see is absence by one spouse. Absence can take the form of extended periods away from home because of work, but emotional unavailability is also a form of absence. Regardless, when one spouse feels alone, even in the presence of the other, needs aren't being met and divorce is a common result.
- Julie Logan; Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Family Counselor; Loves Park, Illinois
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